An interesting discussion about the harm reduction crisis in SEE

On the 20th of April 2022, the three Networks organized a Webinar on Harm reduction crisis in South East Europe. During this event, national decision-makers from the region, researchers, harm reduction service providers, community and civil society representatives came together to present and discuss the key findings of the research activities.

Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the Drug Policy Network of South-Eastern Europe have been working together to advocate for addressing the harm reduction crisis in South East Europe since 2019.

Countries of South-Eastern Europe and the Balkans, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, are experiencing relatively high levels of HIV and HVC infection among people who inject drugs. However, due to limited domestic resources and the gradual withdrawal of the Global Fund from the region, the governments of these countries are facing a lack of resources to continue the long-term funding of comprehensive harm reduction programmes.

During this webinar, C-EHRN, EHRA and DPNSE present the research Crisis in harm reduction funding: The impact of transition from Global Fund to Government support and opportunities to achieve sustainable harm reduction services for people who inject drugs in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia they have conducted in the area and discuss its key findings, which include among others:

  • Common challenges of scaling-up harm reduction programmes in the countries of South-Eastern Europe.
  • Consequences of the limited funding of the harm reduction services for public health and national healthcare systems.
  • Opportunities available for the governments of the region to act and invest funds and efforts in effective and proven models of harm reduction in their respective countries.

Building upon this research, this publication, and also policy briefing and factsheet, highlight opportunities available for the governments of the region to act and invest funds and efforts in effective and proven models of harm reduction in their respective countries.

Recording of the Webinar is available below.

Albania to legalize medical cannabis

Government of Prime Minister Edi Rama will pave the way for the legalization of medical cannabis in Albania, as in the question of National Counselling, 61% of Albanian citizens have pronounced in favor of legalization. According to the results of the poll, 308.000 citizens voted for (61%), 148.000 against (29%), while 51.000 had no opinion on the matter. The survey was conducted online and on paper form from 19 January to 31 March.

In a statement to the media, the Head of Government, who published the results on Thursday said that what the citizens have asked will be done. “We will legalize cannabis and open a new front of work and economic growth, in addition to increasing the technological aspect. What the citizens have said will be realized. The voice of the citizens is resounding and we will do exactly what the citizens want, some things faster, some less slowly. This is a process, but very soon within a few days you will see the members of the cabinet who will come out with concrete commitments, to give people back the trust they have returned to this process“, stressed the Prime Minister.

Mr Rama hailed the government initiative as a ‘major achievement’ in getting the citizens’ opinion on crucial issues.

 

Harm reduction crisis in South East Europe

Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the Drug Policy Network of South-Eastern Europe have been working together to advocate for addressing the harm reduction crisis in South East Europe since 2019.

The three networks are hosting an online discussion about the funding challenges and opportunities for governments to the crisis of harm reduction services in SEE countries and the Balkans.

The webinar will take place on the 20th of April from 13:00h to 14:30h CET.

Countries of South-Eastern Europe and the Balkans, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, are experiencing relatively high levels of HIV and HVC infection among people who inject drugs. However, due to limited domestic resources and the gradual withdrawal of the Global Fund from the region, the governments of these countries are facing a lack of resources to continue the long-term funding of comprehensive harm reduction programmes.

During this webinar, C-EHRN, EHRA and DPNSE will present the research they have conducted in the area as well as opportunities available for the governments of the region to act and invest funds and efforts in effective and proven models of harm reduction in their respective countries.

The webinar is open to national decision-makers from the SEE region, the Balkans and other European countries, researchers, harm reduction activists, civil society representatives, harm reduction service providers and the media.

The event will be held in English. To register and to receive the complete webinar agenda, please fill in the form https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_-4Dh14MmQumJc3mPJxZgOw

Please contact for more details: Roberto Perez Gayo rpgayo@correlation-net.org

 

Crisis in harm reduction funding

Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the Drug Policy Network of South-Eastern Europe have been working together to advocate for addressing the harm reduction crisis in South East Europe since 2019.

Countries of South-Eastern Europe and the Balkans, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, are experiencing relatively high levels of HIV and HVC infection among people who inject drugs, including those who inject psychoactive substances. However, due to limited domestic resources and the gradual withdrawal of the Global Fund from the region, the governments of these countries are facing a lack of resources to continue the long-term funding of comprehensive harm reduction programmes. In addition to these and other barriers, in some countries, there is no legal basis for NGOs to provide services to marginalized populations, including people who use drugs.

Graham Shaw produced the research he have conducted with our and support of our colleagues from the region.

The following report, policy briefing and factsheet present and analyze current common challenges of scaling-up harm reduction programmes in the countries of South-Eastern Europe and the consequences of the limited funding of the harm reduction services for public health and national healthcare systems. Building upon this research, these publications highlight opportunities available for the governments of the region to act and invest funds and efforts in effective and proven models of harm reduction in their respective countries.

Report

 

 

 

 

 

 

Policy brief

 

 

 

 

 

 

Factsheet

Ready for the Workshop 2?

Participants of the “No risk, no borders for young people” gathered at the Zoom meeting on 18 August 2021. The aim was to see again familiar faces, chat about how summer went/is going, share about the experiences from the youth exchange opportunities they had and check if everything is in order for the Workshop 2 scheduled for 26 – 29 August in Velipojë, Albania.

Evaluating and planning summer activities

The Project Team meeting of the No risk, no borders for young people project was held online on 30 July 2021.

The Project Team shared impression that the youth exchange which was offered for (at least) one young activist from each partner organisation was a success. Besides practical on hand work with young people in risk, it was an excellent opportunity to share with the peers and learn about the host city.

Most of the meeting was dedicated to preparations for the Workshop scheduled for 26 to 29 August 2021 in Velipojë. Several improvements and additions to the agenda were introduced during the meeting. Logistics is already arranged, including travel, accommodation, working space and food.

First ideas sharing about the Curriculum content and trainers was held. We shall open a call for experts soon so that we make the selection at the Workshop 2. Also, we shall have a deeper discussion about the Curriculum there and make the final decisions.

 

ECOM is looking for consultants

Eurasian Coalition on Male Health (ECOM) is one of the pre-qualified providers of the Global Fund’s CRG program and provides technical assistance to communities and key populations of Albania for conducting budget advocacy, and cost–effectiveness and efficiency analyses of HIV and STI services for gay men, men who have sex with men and trans* people in Albania. More details are available following this link>>>.

Additionally, ECOM is looking for the consultant to conduct mapping of HIV and STI services for MSM and trans* people and organizing local meetings with stakeholders in the Republic of Albania>>>.

Application deadline: November 1, 2020, 23:59 (GMT +3).

All these activities are to be implemented as a part of the technical assistance within the Global Fund’s CRG TA Program.

HIV prevention services for key populations in Albania on the brink of collapse

Civil society organisations from Albania issued an open letter expressing their concerns regarding a difficult context of provision of HIV services to key populations groups in the country.

The implementation of the Global Fund grant came to an end on 31 December 2019 and the new transition grant is not still signed yet. By 1st of January, all NGOs providing services to key population run out of any kind of support. Access to the services of 1800 people who inject drugs and 380 methadone clients, 1200 MSM, 290 sex workers, 30 prisoners and up to 200 people living with HIV is being jeopardized.

NGOs are required to shut down services, cut human resources and return all assets to the principal recipient (Ministry of Health and Social Protection): computers, printers, minivans, tables, furniture and even remaining rapid tests. This is disturbing for those NGOs which are renting spaces.

There is a total lack of information from all institutions, including CCM, how the project will continue, what will be the role of each actor and how the sustainability of services will be ensured, if it will be.

Albanian NGOs appeal to the Global Fund Secretariat, CCM and Minister of Health and Social Protection of Republic of Albania requesting them not to neglect this situation but to act fast and appropriately to ensure the sustainability of HIV prevention services for key populations. The support of other donors and technical partners is also very welcomed.

DPNSEE has already, in partnership with Correlation and EHRA, raised issue of sustainability of harm reduction services in Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Romania.

The open letter is available following this link>>>.

Growing like weeds?

The cultivation of cannabis in Albania goes back several decades, but experienced a peak around 2016, at which point the police undertook an eradication operation in an attempt to curtail the country’s widespread cannabis production industry. A more recent resurgence in cannabis cultivation, however, points to the fact that the underlying drivers of this illicit economy are still in place. Without a concerted effort to address collusion in the cannabis market and the country’s structural conditions, which entice many young people to seek a livelihood in cannabis production, the conditions that enable the market are unlikely to be disrupted.

Key points of the brief on this issue “Growing like weeds? Rethinking Albania’s culture of cannabis cultivation“, published by the Civil Society Observatory to Counter Organized Crime in South-Eastern Europe, include:

  • The conditions that enable cannabis cultivation in Albania have been in place for many years.
  • Despite police crackdowns on cultivation, the phenomenon continues to be pervasive.
  • Cultivating cannabis is seen as a source of income for many, particularly the young.
  • Colluding state officials are among the drivers of the Albanian cannabis economy.
  • A new approach is needed to break the cycle of reliance that the cannabis economy provides and attract young people into legitimate work.

The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime is a network of prominent law enforcement, governance and development practitioners who are dedicated to seeking new and innovative strategies and responses to organized crime.

Policy briefs on current issues in the Western Balkans are published on a regular basis by the Civil Society Observatory to Counter Organized Crime in South-Eastern Europe which operates under The Global Initiative.  The Observatory is a platform that connects and empowers civil-society actors in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The Observatory aims to enable civil society to identify, analyse and map criminal trends, and their impact on illicit flows, governance, development, interethnic relations, security and the rule of law, and supports them in their monitoring of national dynamics and wider regional and international organized-crime trends.

The briefs draw on the expertise of a local civil-society network who provide new data and contextualize trends related to organized criminal activities and state responses to them.

To read this brief, follow this link>>>

New case study on HIV prevention in Albania

Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) just published the case study “The Challenges of Global Fund Transition in Albania: HIV Prevention Services for Key Populations on the Brink of Collapse” which looks at the challenges which could be faced by country in sustaining HIV prevention programmes among KAPs, implemented primarily by civil society organisations (CSO’s), as a result of the withdrawal of the Global Fund through the transition period.

The purpose of this report is to identify gaps and challenges faced by CSO’s in the transition from Global Fund assistance to government support of services for key populations (KP) under the 2017-2019 grant. Whilst the funding commitment by government institutions is to absorb all costs, the methodology to prepare for this transition, and also the strategy to transfer costs, is unclear.

We hope that the information and arguments presented in this case study as well as the recommendations could be used by the civil society and communities representatives to support their sustainability and transition related advocacy activities as well as to establish the communication with other potential donors to persuade them to establish a ‘safety net‘ through which bridging funds can be made available to address the sustainability related challenges faced by KPs services in country.

HIV Prevention Services for Key Populations on the Brink of Collapse

This case study is available at EHRA’s webpage following this link>>>